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The African National Congress Youth Turn Against Zuma

Jacob Zuma used the youth league to win a power struggle but now the league is gunning for him.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 8/31/2011, 10:51 AM

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma may be currently be paying the price for building up the African National Council Youth League. When he won his power struggle with former President Thabo Mbeki, the ANCYL was a useful ally because it viewed Zuma as more militant and populist than the aloof Mbeki.

Now the shoe is on the other foot as Zuma is considered the establishment and is embroiled in a power struggle with the youth league's leader Julius Malema. Malema and five other league officers are facing disciplinary hearings. Zuma wants Malema and his associates suspended.

The charges include Malema's  call to send a committee to neighboring Botswana to depose president Ian Khama whom the ANCYL accuses of cooperating with "imperialists" and undermining "the African agenda."

Malema has called for nationalizing the country's mines and has made racist comments to whites and white politicians. In general he believes that white South Africans should be treated as criminals for theft of land from blacks.

He has called a BBC journalist "a bloody agent" and forcibly ejected him from a press conference.

Malema has no intention of going quietly and so the South African police have  found themselves resorting to stun grenades and water cannon as youth league members throw stones at party headquarters, burn shirts with Zuma's portraits. One poster even referred to Zuma as a rapist.

Blowing the vuvuzelas, famous from the World Cup, they sought to stop traffic in Johannesburg. Trash bins were set on fire and panicked buisnesses shuttered their doors. The demonstrators also threatened to vote for Zuma's rivals at the 2012 party congress.

Malema has recruited support among black clergy.One sermon compared Malema to King David who received a divine summons to lead the people, giving the assumption that Zuma is King Saul.

He claimed that the youth league was fulfilling the purpose envisioned by Nelson Mandela, the ANC's elder statesman.

"President Mandela, when he formed the youth league, challenged the elders and said to them 'This strategy you are using of sending letters to the queen will never liberate our people.' The elders at that time accused him of disrespect. That disrespect gave us freedom today because of the energetic youth."

Now that independence has been achieved it is necessary to pursue the fight for economic freedom. "We are an enemy to those in power because we say 'Let's share the wealth of this country.'"